Persona 3 Portable is basically my ideal sort of otome game. Lots of cool characters are in it. You get a lite life sim to experience. There are RPG elements! The only thing that would be better in my mind is taking Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side, localizing it, and tossing some Arabian’s Lost: The Engagement on Desert excuse for dungeon-crawling into it. I’d be set. But there’s one thing it doesn’t do that I’d love. While the female protagonist route in Persona 3 Portable does add Junpei as a Social Link, it doesn’t add him as a romance option, and that’s still quite sad.
Understandable, to be sure. Spoilers aside, there are certain plot points that would make it difficult to implement to be sure. The fact that Junpei even is a Social Link for Kotone (the default name for the heroine) in Persona 3 Portable is something! It gives us someone who, right from the start, is there to support us, make us laugh, offer advice, and stay by your side. Junpei is always there. But it’s the fact that he can be so relatable and dependable that he becomes a fun option for someone to wonder, “What if?”
There are some great (and not underage, creepy) romance options we do get with the Persona 3 Portable Social Links. Shinjiro is fantastic. Obnoxious, ever-present bandage aside, Akihiko is also very cool. Basically, Aigis is there as a possible girlfriend too, if you want. I’d even say I consider Shinji my “canon” pairing for the game, given how things turn out. But there’s a level of friendship that develops in Junpei’s route that isn’t present with the other options. Junpei is with you from the beginning. You have a shared foundation and parallel experiences, in a way. Of all the people you know and meet, he’s the first to reach out to you and offer an unconditional level of support. It’s an ideal base for a relationship.
Especially since we also see Junpei grow as a character. We get that friendships and people aren’t always perfect with him. There’s a sense of jealousy that comes from the player being picked to lead, rather than him, even though the two joined at the same time. It’s almost as though he feels an obligation or need to be in charge due to stereotypes, and we see him accept that he’s great no matter what position he plays on the team.
I mean, I do appreciate in a way that Junpei isn’t someone you can romance in Persona 3 Portable. It is great that Kotone can turn to a good guy friend who always helps her out and is fun to spend time with. Not to mention the story does still play out in a way that leaves him unavailable. Things could have been done to change things up, much like they do for another female protagonist Social Link. But then that undoes a lot of good for yet another character. Plus, it adds a sense of realism. You can’t always fall in love with everyone. Not to mention it reinforces the idea that yes, men and women can be friends without it becoming something more.
But also I still really, really wanted to make Junpei my virtual boyfriend and kick off our romance back when I first played Persona 3 Portable, and all that’s come back on the Switch.
Persona 3 Portable is available on the Nintendo Switch, PS4, PSP, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC.
Related: How to Create Jack Frost with Dia in Persona 3 Portable on Attack of the Fanboy